Boggs: Epilogue

As I go through life it becomes more and more clear to me that happiness comes from shared experiences. Spending time and connecting with people. Maybe just an afternoon playing ball with your child or dinner and a movie with your wife or riding with a group of friends.

For me THE highlight of my trip to California was getting to spending time with friends who I don’t normally get to see. We set the RV’s up so that our little virtual campfire was between the two campers. Virtual because real campfires are a tricky thing in California. But it doesn’t matter. The campfire is neither necessary or sufficient.

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At the campfire we talked about lots of things. Leadville was a big topic. (Hey we Bike, so where did you think the talk would center????) 4 out of 6 of us are going there this summer. Some rookies with the goal of finishing under 12 hours, some sophomores with the goal of finishing under 9 and some who are institutions at Leadville with the goal of finishing under 8.

We ate. We talked about eating. We talked about what might possibly be the worst tasting thing a company has ever produced as endurance “food”. (I am groaning with disbelief in the picture above.) We ate some more. We talked about amazing blunders that large companies have made. We talked about what constitutes dessert. We ate dessert (well most of us). We talked about bikes. We talked about families.

We talked about snipes (both the legendary “purple” snipe and the much less known “arctic” snipe).

The other “campfire” I spent time at when I was in California was the Thompson family campfire. The Thompsons are a remarkable family. I saw this picture on the Book of Face and it made me think of them.

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Several years ago Amy and Dave’s son Rob had a serious accident, one that changed their lives forever. I know that like any family they have their moments (good and bad) but they face that challenge together with humor (sometimes highly inappropriate, but being part of a family that had someone who worked at Hospice, I certainly appreciate the need for inappropriate jokes) and a remarkably welcoming attitude.

This year Team Thompson are World Bicycle Relief Ambassadors. One of the WBR slogans is “The Power of Bicycles”. I was fortunate to have a chance to ride with Dave and Rob while I was in California. After the accident Dave built a custom tandom bike for him and Rob to bike on.

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That bike proves the power of bicycles. The doctors, nurses and other care givers were amazed at Rob’s progress after he started riding. But here is the thing I learned while riding with them. Biking gives Dave and Rob a chance to be be together and share the “doing” of something that is independent of the accident. It’s pure connection. They get to do, something that most of us take for granted like playing ball or hiking with our kids. When they are riding they are actively experiencing things, they talk, they bicker. Rob told me that he likes to bike because his accident doesn’t matter when he bikes. (Authors Note: Dave and Rob are maniac’s on that bike. I wouldn’t ride tandom with either of them.)

Team Thompson, thank you for opening your house and family to me for a couple of days. No there cannot be too much Mexican food. Amy it was awesome to see you get your new dream bike (hopefully they got the frame thing straightened out!)

Yes. THE highlight of the trip to California was getting to spend time with friends. The kind of friends who I could have lunch with next week or next year and pick up as though I had seen them the day before.

 

Addendum: When we were talking about deserts, which all proper FoF do while eating, we discussed what may be the most repulsive desert flavor ever used by chef’s on humans. Lavender. Lavender is good in soap, but it makes desert take like, well soap. This was something I brought up having personally experienced this crime against humanity at an expensive local restaurant back home. In a strange twist of fate, Dave H. brought an assortment of birthday cupcakes. It was his Birthday. One of the flavors was lavender. It went uneaten. Jeff kindly reminded me that this was forgotten in his write-up, Elden’s write-up (to date) and mine. I added this so that the record of the horror would be complete.

Monday Morning Slider: It total does and does not matter (all at the same time)

I didn’t get to write last week. It was an incredibly difficult week with more bad family health news. I spent the week processing and going about trying to find some normalcy. Writing took a back seat. This sabbatical year has been difficult from that perspective. While its not my sabbaticals “fault” it certainly isn’t making this year be what it was supposed to be.

I went sliding on Sunday. It was strange to be at the start line. What a silly little way to spend my time. Riding a sled down a hill. Given the recent news and all that happened this last fall with my family, sliding is unimportant. It doesn’t change any of that reality. It really doesn’t matter.

And yet it really does. It’s a diversion. It gives me a chance to just be for a little while. To put things aside. It’s a chance to spend time with friends and laugh and tease. And so it really does matter, a lot.

I slid well. Four solid runs. A couple where I really felt good on my sled. My times were not stellar, but be warned of luge friends, my runs were better than my times showed. And my sled is with the best sled guy in the country being tuned up. The 5th run? Well I should have listened to the little voice that said you have had enough. Eh, that’s neither here nor there. I left the track smiling, and that, as always, is my metric for a good day.

 Picture of the Day

Well today’s picture is really a story. It is being told by a very talented story teller, and well sometimes that makes for the best picture. Being close to Canada we are exposed to some things (most of them good). There is a CBC radio show called the Vinyl Cafe. On that show Stuart McClain tells stories. Some are real, and some of fiction. The fictional ones are about a family in Canada. The best part of those stories is how Stuart can weave essential truths into the narrative. This story is in one of the books he has written and I first read it there. Yesterday I heard Stuart tell it for the first time. This story is about people and relationships and living. It is one of my favorite stories, and is about 20 minutes long. You may need kleenex. I did when I first read it and then again when I heard it.

 

Embracing Winter

Authors note: I highly recommend you play the video below and listen to the music while reading today’s post……. 

 

We are in the midst of another cold and snowy winter in the North Country. While my friends in California tease me with pictures of mountain biking in what is pretty close to our North Country summer weather, we are stuck with almost 3 ft of snow on the ground and sub zero temps.

There really isn’t anything you can do by embrace winter and get out to experience it.

Last weekend we “heated up” into the 20’s for daytime highs and so I pulled my mountain bike out for a spin. I decided I was going to ride over to the place I went cross country skiing last weekend to see if the trails were packed down enough that I could get my non-fat tired mountain bike onto them.

I purposely waited till later in the day because I knew it was going to snow and it somehow seamed the proper thing for this expedition. In the 20’s its relatively easy to dress to ride. A base layer, long sleeve jersey and my cold weather coat. A knit hat under my helmet and bootie covers on my shoes.

For gloves. Well I went with my summer weight long fingered gloves. Insane you say. No I reply. I have had lots of trouble with my hands in moderate to cold temps. They get hot, sweat, and then freeze. BUT I had a secret weapon. These:

Let me say this….. Bar Mitts are THE solution. They are like little neoprene igloos for your hands. The neoprene keeps the wind and moisture away from your fingers. Your body heat builds a little warm zone inside. They have openings so it doesn’t get too warm. I am in total love with these.

And so I headed out. The roads were snow covered, but not too bad. And as I rode down the road I had one of my favorite songs from Ride the Divide playing in my head (click on that link on top if you haven’t already!)….

…….and lost myself in my ride. That song is what pops into my mind when I am “journeying” on my bike. It just fits.

I got to the trails and realized that one of the things I like about them is that not a lot of people use them. The bad part of that good thing was that my not-so-fat tired mountain bike wasn’t going to work on those trails due on the deep loose snow.

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And so I rewound The Stable Song and headed back home. I went round about. At one point I was so just into my ride that I rode past my road without even noticing. Totally in the moment.

My reward for that missed turn was getting to see some deer and turkeys hanging out on another road. The snow picked up in intensity making for a fantastic winter day.

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The ride was one long meditation. One long “in the moment”, but without the pain of a serious training ride or a race.

It came to an end. I thanked my bike (and Bar Mitts).

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Then I chipped myself out of my ice cocoon.

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Picture of the Day

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“Frozen Salsa”

 

Have A Very Bizzaro Christmas Part 1

Up here in the North Country we expect snow. Some people love the snow because you can grab some cross country skis, or snow shoes, or crampons or a fat bike and get outside. Some, have a season long hatred of the white stuff. But the one thing we all agree upon is that snow on Christmas is absolutely perfect. In the movies there is always the tension of will there be a “White Christmas”? Somehow it always manages to snow Christmas Eve or on Christmas day to deliver the perfect Christmas atmosphere.

Life is rarely like the movies however. We had a really nice snow storm 10 days ago that dumped about a foot of snow. People were out skiing and snow shoeing or complaining about the winter in full force. Then the forecast approached Christmas. Above freezing, then rain entered the picture, then it was going to get a lot above freezing with rain. But it was going to cool down on Christmas and snow.

We made it through the warm and the rain and got to Christmas Eve still with enough snow in the yard to call it “white”. It was a wounded white. You know the kind that looks like it has been melting. The brown dingy kind of white. But it was white.

We went to bed Christmas Eve and it started to get windy. Warm is hard on snow, but warm and windy is death for snow. The wind blows away the evaporated moisture and accelerates the melting process.

And so we woke up Christmas morning to a brown landscape. All the snow melted…………

You learn a lot about your neighbors when…..

…..You sit quietly in the woods next to their house. Let me explain.

One of the reasons why I love the fall is because I hunt. When I was in grad school in Michigan I started to hunt. Since I don’t like to do things the “easy” way, I started bow hunting. Bow hunting just seamed to fit me. It’s quieter. It’s somehow more “in tune” than hunting with a gun, which has always felt more like going to war than going out to take part in the natural world to me. And for some reason, I shoot a bow much much better than I shoot a gun. I’ve never minded it was harder. I have never minded when I didn’t get a deer with my bow that I could have gotten with a gun.

One of the expected unexpected consequences of being on sabbatical this fall was that I missed most of the hunting season in NY. Lot’s of my friends asked if I was taking my bow with me to Michigan. But living in on campus housing made that choice a clear no. (Also traveling through Canada to get to Michigan would have been much much more complicated.)

I got home at the very tail end of the hunting season in NY. It’s not usually a great time to be out in the woods. The human warriors have made the living things in the woods very nervous. Being immersed in natural tension is way more tense. So I was on the fence about going hunting this year. But there were two things that pushed me into going out. Bailey asked for a very specific birthday dinner that requires venison. Well you cannot disappoint your first born! Truthfully it is one of my favorite dishes too. The other thing was I really wanted to spend a little time alone in the woods. It’s not all bad to just sit in the woods and not see anything. So I figured it was a win either way.

OK. So what does this have to do with me neighbor? My favorite hunting spot is across the creek in my neighbors woods.  It’s a perfect little spot because it is on a travel way that necks down into a narrow area. Usually you see deer and because of the topography there is a good chance they will come close.

Yesterday afternoon I sat out in my spot. We had about 8 inches of snow. It was a perfect evening to be out sitting in the woods. About an hour after I got into place I heard my neighbor and his son. I learned that they are very loud. Very VERY loud. And when you are hoping that the local wild population, which has been chased by humans for about 6 weeks, will feel a little bit OK to be out and about this is not a good thing.

But here is the thing. All the noise they were making? Well they were playing. Enjoying the snow and each other. It made me smile. I didn’t mind.

Neither did the deer. I saw a bunch. They never passed by my area in the funnel. And really, I didn’t mind.

 

 

Home from the “Desert”

Wednesday Noah and I head home to Potsdam.

I’ve learned a couple of things on this trip.

Home can be many places.

I am excited to get back to Potsdam. I miss MY bed and MY kitchen. I miss my trails. I miss my roads. I miss my hyper dog. I even miss my cat just a little. (Noah definitely does not miss Bailey’s rabbit.) Mostly though I miss the people in Potsdam who are special to me. It’s the people that make a place special. First are Coreen and Bailey. I miss them. I have missed seeing Bailey turn into a runner. And even if he is misplacing is suffering, by not doing it on a bike, I am proud of him. I would never have picked Bailey to get into a sport that requires suffering. Strange how our children can amaze us when we think we know them so well. I missed Bailey bringing a girlfriend over to meet his parents for the first time. But I won’t miss being there when he gets his drivers licence ;). I have missed supporting and being supported by Coreen through this personally difficult fall. I missed celebrating with Coreen when she got a new job that she is super excited about. She will be working with the local hospital to make fundamental changes on how they treat people with chronic illness. I am proud of my “People Whisperer”. It seams like for some reason we are apart when we get big, good career news. (I was in Utah when my tenure decision came, bummer!) Coreen makes me a better person and I hope that I do the same for her. I miss my friends. Potsdam is special for us because we have great friends there. Thursday we are having Thanksgiving with many of them. As is our “tradition” we are having our non-US citizen friends over for an American Thanksgiving. It seams like our American friends get to go visit family while the non-US friends are stuck in Potsdam. It’s great fun to share that tradition with them.

I did my graduate work at Michigan State, and coming here was like coming home. East Lansing was the first place that Coreen and I had an “adult” life. We got married while were were here. We bought our first house here. We had both of our children here (with the same midwife and delivery nurse for both!). We have many fond people and places that we miss. It was our first home together and so its special. It’s been nice to catch up with those people and to take Noah to do some of the things we did with Bailey when we lived here.

Wisconsin in my Home. It’s been bitter sweet this fall. While I am sad about my uncle passing, it was also really nice to connect with my family out there. So many new Facebook friends! Still chuckling that one of my cousins was locked into the chicken coop by her very young son. He’s a stinker and fits right in with our family.

Sabbatical is like going into the desert to be tempted.

Sabbatical is about having all of the fun parts of your job, without any of the crap that goes along with it. I think the senior faculty know, but don’t tell you, sabbatical is something like going into the desert to be tempted. It is a time to experience the “greener grass” on the other side of the fence, without seeing all of the dirt patches that go with it. Because you have no real responsibility at your temporary home, well, it can seem WAY better than the place where you are ACTUALLY employed. That’s doubly true here because I am familiar with this school and lab, and so I can function in it really efficiently. I love working with my PhD adviser. We compliment each other really well. It’s tempting to wonder “what if”. But it’s also dangerous. That’s probably one reason why they make you sign a contract saying you will come home for at least a year before you leave for a new job.

Fatties Are Awesome!

Those of you who read Fat Cyclists blog and are a Friend of Fatty know how awesome FoF’s are. When you meet a FoF for the first time it is like meeting an old friend that you haven’t seen in a long time. They are a generous bunch. It makes me proud to wear the colors. Because I went to a race and wore a Fatty jersey I met up with a fellow FoF and then got a chance to meet and ride with a group of people I would not have otherwise met. Dave thanks for welcoming me. Brent and Scott it was great to ride with you guys a little bit and get to know you some. If you are ever in Northern NY let me know. We have a basement apartment to crash in and many many cool trails to ride. We also have these things called “mountains” for which “mountain bikes” were named. How about a 45 minute climb?

Jenni Hoops, thank you so much for the texts, conversations and support this fall. You are a true FoF.

Picture of the Day (Well its not really a picture as much as a video, and its not really mine, but it is me)

 

Just Breathe

Today I am steeling someone else’s words. It is one of my favorite songs. The words say a lot. They are honest, and positive. They fit my place right now.

Yes, I understand that every life must end, 
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, 
Oh I’m a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love
Some folks just have one, yeah, others, they’ve got none…

Stay with me…
Let’s just breathe…

“Just Breathe” – Eddie Vedder

I have a big, sometimes crazy, sometimes frustrating, but always supportive family. Its a family that you can count on to have your back when you need it. Being far away its easy to forget that. I won’t say that this week has been happy, or easy, but I am lucky.

 Picture of the Day

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“Sunrise in Wisconsin”

Enough of the heavy real life stuff (please Life it is time, how about a little break, eh?) It is, I think, time to get back to some roots on this blog. I cannot wait to go back home and get out my luge sled, sand the steels, dare the wall, and regale you all with tales of bruises. Let’s have some fun! 🙂